This week, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) unveiled Renew Boston’s Residential Solar Pilot to boost the adoption of solar in the city. The campaign offers homeowners between $1,000 and $3,000 in rebates, but funds are extremely limited.
The $140,000 campaign is expected to help between 50 and 70 homeowners in the Boston-area to go solar, said Jacob Glickel, Boston’s chief of staff for the Office of Environmental and Energy Service.
“It’s on top of the existing state and federal grants,” he said. “The feds have a tax rebate, and the State has the Commonwealth Rebate. We’re kind of matching the state rebate program.”
It’s funded through Boston’s $6.5 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, which was awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The majority of the city’s block grant is going to energy efficiency measures, according to Glickel. The city is awarding $1.8 million to homeowners, $1.8 million to multifamily homes and $1 million to small businesses that undertake approved energy efficiency efforts.
But the city also wanted to encourage more solar development among its residents.
“The city of Boston has been slow in general versus the rest of the state to adapt solar,” he said.
The city hopes that getting more people to adopt solar in the city will actually help spark interest among other residents—call it the “keeping up with the Joneses effect.”
To celebrate the campaign, the city held an event at the home of Katharine Kilbourn and Scott Shear, who recently had SunBug Solar install a 4.6 kilowatt system. The system will provide about 90 percent of their power needs.
During the event, the installer said he was surprised to see how the installation sparked interest from others in the neighborhood, according to Glickel.
With the added incentive from the city, homeowners installing solar can reduce the payback time for a system to within in the length of a new car lease.
“There’s already current funding available. We’re thinking with our added incentive, it will bring payback from about five to six years to under four,” Glickel said.
Since introducing the program, 20 people have already signed up, Glickel said. That means potentially up to 50 rebates are left, but it could be higher.
“Just because people sign up doesn’t mean they’ll get the rebate,” he said. “We’re also requiring people to have undergone an energy audit and done basic energy efficiency improvements before they do it.”
Don’t expect Boston to offer the rebate in coming years.
“This is pretty much a one year thing,” Glickel said.
There’s no ARRA funding for the project in future years.
“But we’ll definitely be looking out for [future funding],” he said.
Pictured: SunBug customer Peter's array, which uses PV roof tiles as opposed to regular modules.